Some club history


Our Online Club Championships Honours Board contains the names of all those who have won our Club Championship since 1949.

From the speech given by Norman Gravestock at the 50th celebration dinner - 1988

Let us go back to 1938 an eventful year, Hitler was beginning to make moves against Poland and Czechoslovakia, instant coffee appeared for the first time and some genius invented ‘Y’ fronts and on 15th March a group of people met in the Borough Hall and decided to form a Tennis Club. The Club was to be called The Rectoria Tennis Club, play was to be on two nights a week at Holloway Hill Recreation Ground and on one night a week on the courts behind the Victoria Motorworks. The Victoria Motorworks was the building beside the old Fire station in Queen Street, the tennis courts have long gone .

Subs were set at 12s 6d per year. At the end of the first season there were 29 members and matches had been played with several local clubs such as the Milford hard court club Witley Tennis club. I would be interested to know where these clubs played and what happened to them as I don’t know of any hard courts in Witley and Milford now.

The following year a grass court was also rented at Broadwater one night a week. By 1940 membership started to go down as people left to do more important things in the war. There was another local club called ‘ The Imps’ and they were also losing members, so the two clubs combined under the Rectoria name.

Members of the forces who were on leave could play for 6d and those awaiting call up could join for 3s 6d.  By 1941 the supply of balls had virtually dried up and one club member said he would try and get some sent from Canada- I wonder if they came disguised as a Red Cross parcel and if they did, did they ever go astray. I have a picture of some poor chap in Colditz eagerly awaiting his food parcel and when it arrives finding two doz tennis balls and nowhere to play tennis!

However the Club still soldiered on, even playing some matches. In 1942 I noticed that old balls were being reconditioned- now that’s another thought, how do you recondition a tennis ball?. Throughout the war balls or lack of them were a continuous problem and by 1942 membership was down to 11 ladies and 9 men. In 1944 someone obtained 7 dozen reconditioned balls.

In 1945 the total expenditure on balls for the season was £7  3s 9d, compare that to the £600 we will spend this season. Well the war ended and although it had been a bit shaky, the club was still going, the members started to return, but unfortunately one or two did not.

At this time the local council started a post war capital spending programme and the club asked that some courts should be provided for their permanent use, but this seems not to have happened as in 1947 the club moved to the courts behind Jackson’s bakery in Farncombe Street on a more or less permanent basis and two years later they chipped in £50, being a half share in a pavilion, the landlord holding the other share. Well it wasn’t really a pavilion, more like a shed with a veranda on the front.

1949 was the year the first Club Championships were held. In 1952 the name was changed to the Godalming Rectoria Club. In 1954 the landlord announced we would not be able to use the courts the following year which brought about urgent meetings with the council, the outcome was the council would build 2 courts at Broadwater for the clubs exclusive use. To raise the £300 required as the club contribution members made interest free loans and the name was changed again, this time to the Godalming Tennis Club. The old pavilion was purchased and moved to Broadwater and Cups were provided for the Championships.

Things started to look up now the Club was more settled and in 1963 a third court was built and playing standards were beginning to pick up.

By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s we won the Chaucer Mixed 5 times in succession and we also won the Chaucer Mens. Our ladies got to the final of the Surrey knockout and the men to the semi final, we may have got further if one of our star players had not been injured, Geoff Hey was poked in the eye with an umbrella just before the semi final at Reigate!. Our individual players were also winning at Cranleigh and we won the mens Chaucer knockout.

By 1973 it was obvious that the time had come to improve our facilities. Plans for a new pavilion were drawn up and from quotes obtained it was equally obvious we couldn’t afford one. We decided the only thing to do was build it ourselves and after many months of hard work we had one of our old members along to declare our handy work open. The cost was   £1,437, once again members made interest free loans towards it.

On top of all this activity we were still managing to hold some very good social events. I expect quite a few remember one particularly hilarious car Rally, we had bonfire parties, barbecues, stool ball and podex matches on Hambledon Village Green.

Moving into the 80’s the table tennis section was started and we were at last able to obtain a 25 year lease from the Council, this enabled us to extend the pavilion and add showers and toilets, a vast improvement on the old sentry boxes with their Elsons!

By now the courts needed relaying and in 1983 a new surface was decided upon, but before these could be laid club members broke up the old courts, dug trenches and laid ducts for future floodlighting. This operation reduced the contractors bill by about £1500 and with this money we were able to build a practice wall and apron.

Most of you will be familiar with the saga of the bankrupt contractor leaving us with an uncompleted job, this problem was overcome and 2 years ago we went ahead with installation of the floodlights. This was one of our most ambitious projects to date costing nearly £10,000 and is proving to be money well spent allowing an increase in our membership to a total of 165.

So what of the future, we have approached the council with a view to taking over two more courts and if successful would need completely relaying. An opportunity for the future with maybe artificial grass or even a covered court.

and more detail of the early years from Erica Holl, Founder Member


A small gathering of people got together with the local Parson in Croft Road and formed the St Peter and St Paul badminton Club who played in the Church room in Queen Street. They then decided they also wanted tennis and started on Holloway Hill Recreation Ground, which also played on hard courts at the Victoria Motorworks , hence the formation of Rectoria Tennis Club.

I started playing tennis when I left school and was introduced to the game by my school friend Peggy Godwin ( she must have been one of the first members of the club). We booked a grass court on Holloway Hill Recreation Ground for 6p for the hour  and with my mothers old racket and a few worn out balls made a start, with no idea of the correct style. I think the best thing which happened for the children later on was the introduction of the Junior Section when young children were coached once a week and put on the right lines from the start. It started by using the professional coach from Charterhouse which was a wonderful opportunity for the youngsters.

Thinking back I feel that our Club was able to introduce tennis to the less well off working man and woman. At that time there was a very obvious class distinction and it was only the upper grade who seemed to play the game. As a girl I remember watching an ‘ Upper Class’ Club playing on the Victoria Motorworks courts in Godalming. At the time there were many large houses in the Godalming area with tennis courts in their gardens, with no doubt gardeners to look after them. On one occasion I remember a few Club Members being invited to play on the grass court of a private house. I remember fine quality grass in a beautiful garden, with deck chairs and light refreshments, we thought it a great honour to be invited. I remember one of our Club Members Jessie Stovold telling me about a Tennis Tournament she played at a large house and how disappointed she was when the prize turned out to be a card of buttons!

Soon after I was introduced to the ‘game’ I was accepted as a member of the Club which played at The Victoria Motorworks. The works were situated in Queen Street and they had 2 hard courts at the back of the building adjacent to pound lane. There was a long stone wall where we used to sit and watch and wait for our turn to play. George Stock one of the first Members lived on the other side of the Lane and I remember on hot Summer evenings sitting in the porch of his parents house and drinking orange squash.

Not long after I joined the Club war broke out and most of the young men were called to the Forces and disappeared from the Club. Quite a number of women also joined up. I believe the Club continued through the war years as I remember playing when on leave. Harvey Bierton was in the Home Guard and as this was a reserved occupation he was around to keep things going.

We also played for a couple of evenings on the Holloway Hill grass courts, but there were no facilities for changing and to get shelter we had to run to the other side of the Rec. We had a few friendly matches and the Groundsman used to provide tea for us after all the cricketers had been catered for. Tea was laid out in the old Guide hut where we sat down to thick sandwiches and plates of good solid buns and cakes from the local bakers, I remember one of our visitors was on a strict diet and thoroughly enjoyed eating all the spares, his wife must have wondered why the diet didn’t work!

I think we have to thank Harvey Bierton who was a Member of the Club for many years and in the early days got the Club on its feet. He was always present on Club nights and I remember him arriving on his bicycle carrying a long tennis bag with rackets and balls for the evening. He arranged matches for our enjoyment and when playing away were informed of where to wait and the times of the buses. Later he helped with the move to other venues and it was apparent the standard began to improve. I remember Harvey’s last day on the tennis court at Broadwater, he was playing in a club singles against Derek Raper when he had a heart attack and had to be taken home and never played again, but did go on to play bowls.

Our next move in 1947 was to Farncombe Street to a couple of hard courts behind Jacksons. This was not ideal as the courts had the Bakery at one end and was surrounded by backyards around the other side. At first the occupants seemed curious and heads could be seen peeping over the fences. Later they didn’t seem so keen on our presence and it was sometimes a job to get any lost balls back, they also seemed to light weekly bonfires on Club nights , maybe to smoke us out!

It was at Jacksons that we acquired our first pavilion (so called). My late husband Ted Holl purchased it on behalf of the Club at a very reasonable price and Mr Jackson who was also a member allowed it to be erected on his land. It was really only like a large shed with no water, lighting or other facilities, but we appreciated the shelter it gave us and it also gave us somewhere to store balls and chairs etc.

I wouldn’t say the courts were top quality but I think we all enjoyed our time at Jacksons. After play we often retired to the local Pub opposite ‘The Rising Sun’ for a drink. Elsie Bierton, Harvey’s wife would go armed with her shopping bag which would contain a crusty loaf, butter, cheese and pickled onions. We laid a cloth on the table, the drinks were ordered and we settled down to our supper and plenty of chatter. The publican didn’t seem to mind,  in fact I think he enjoyed the company.

The next and final move in 1958 was to Broadwater when our ‘precious’ hut had to be dismantled, moved and re-erected. There was still no water and lighting or sanitation and I remember two little huts round the back where the Elsons were installed. I think they were avoided whenever possible, but the public thought they were for general use until deterred by locks  on the doors.

There have been many changes since those days- extra good courts, a well  equipped pavilion and floodlights to enable winter play.




Rackets were quite different when I started play, the wooden frames were obviously not as strong as the metal ones, the strings were not so tight and of course the game was slower. My first racket was a Slazenger Victory, not the most expensive but strung with gut, it had a diamond painted on the centre to indicate where you were supposed to hit the ball. Not earning much money rackets had to be carefully looked after and kept in a press when not in use and a waterproof cover for when it might rain. Even with care strings did break and a visit to the local Sports shop was needed opposite the old post office to see Mr Hawes who was an expert on repairs.


Dress was quite different, rather prim and proper you might say, frocks and skirts to the knee or below and sometimes with stockings. I remember the pleated shorts coming in. Men often wore long trousers and everyone wore white. Of course fashions changed but it was a long time before the track suit came in.


We had social gatherings, planned dances and organised walks. I remember one walk ended up at The Crown in Chiddingfold for a meal. The young man who organised the outing rashly ordered a couple of jugs of fruit punch in addition to the food and was shattered when the bill arrived that he could not afford to pay. I remember we had to dive into pockets and purses to get enough to cover the deficit, I wondered if the waiters got a tip! I felt relieved when we crossed the Green once more to catch the bus.

I also remember a party of young members going to a dance at Compton, I think we had transport there but had to walk home. I recall a line of us stretching across the road with arms linked and walking as fast as we could, but never again! There was no hope of a lift as there were very few cars about.


Quite a number of members would try to get to Wimbledon for at least one day of the fortnight especially before there was television coverage. If we were not lucky enough to have a ticket we would arrive early and join the queue on the pavement and hope to get on Centre or Court 1 which we often did, not so easy now!